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Friday

Shootings, High- Profiles Soft Targets

The threat of intentional attacks on civilian soft targets continues.
"Locations of critical infrastructure such as hospitals, will need to be protected from attack as will other civilian locations. Hotels, coffee shops, and shopping centers lack the deterrents necessary to prevent attacks. The psychological impact of an attack on any of these soft targets will nearly as devastating as the loss of life."
I wrote that in a post quite some time ago and unfortunately, its proven accurate again.

In response to the recent shootings at a movie theater in Colorado -

Consider the following:
  1. Soft target - lacking any deterrent or protection from an attack
  2. Lone Wolf - individual acting alone with considerable planning, action intelligence,  resources, and motivation
  3. Multiple threats - secondary devices, chemical hazards
  4. Prior events show commonalities for preparedness (Olympic Park, Columbine H.S.) - lessons from case study improve response efficiency 
Lessons:
  1. It can happen here
  2. If you haven't conducted joint training, response will suffer
  3. Include case study in your training program
Recommendations:
  1. Plan for the realistic threats you face - maybe you should skip the airport/crash drill this year and replace it with an active shooter event at a soft target
  2. Evaluate your plans
  3. Evaluate your exercise design program and consider including tabletop exercises

MJ Podcast #187: Inside Look at Net Talon

MJ Podcast #187: Inside Look at Net Talon and how they save lives of responders and civilians


We're all about situational awareness. Numerous articles and sources have talked about the use of civilians as forward observers...that is, those who are engaged in a situation being part of the solution be providing first-hand data to responders. The best example of this is the cell phone videos that make it to mainstream media; those videos taken by civilians who are actually there and perhaps in harms way. Even more recently we've discussed how many 9-1-1 dispatch centers were now accepting emergency calls via text messaging. Suffice to say, those in the midst of a situation have technology available to get important data out to responders.

What about taking that accidental intel gathering and making it more sophisticated, real-time, without putting anyone in harms way? Interested? Well, that is exactly what Net Talon has done with their Virtual Command Incident Management technology. Also known as Net Talon System 3000, this command system allows for immediate notification of an event and faster dispatch of appropriate resources. They also integrate any pre-incident plans for a given location. There is a viewing component that keeps responders situational aware at a near real-time pace; who is under attack, who is safe or in an area of refuge...The Virtual Command technology also sets responder up for success by encouraging incident planning en-route a faster execution of strategy upon arrival. 

I had an opportunity to have Donald Jones, Director of Corporate Development, and Ronald DuBois, Director of Administration and Finance at Net Talon join me on Mitigation Journal Podcast edition 187 for an in-depth look at Net Talon and the Virtual Command technology. What you'll hear on Mitigation Journal Podcast this week is perhaps the most invigorating news on the topic of threat mitigation I've heard in a long time.

Please visit Net Talon on at www.nettalon.com. While you're there, be sure to watch their active shooter demonstration.

Lone wolf threat pales next to complacency

Lone wolf terrorism is being predicted to be the next biggest threat to Homeland Security. As an offshoot of Homegrown Terrorism (formerly known as Domestic Terrorism), the lone wolf scenarios are seen as impossible to predict and difficult to defend against. The lone wolf is an individual who shares an ideation but is not formally connected to an “official” terrorist network. Ted Kaczynski, Eric Robert Rudolph, and Timothy McVeigh fit the lone wolf definition. These individuals conduct surveillance and plan independently. The interest in lone wolf terrorism comes from an assumption that the internet is providing a portal for radicalization. As if the internet itself is recruiting terrorists. Citizen radicals and idealists who intend to do harm on our soil has been growing for some time. Interest in domestic hate groups and political extremists has grown in recent years. Case study may show that their targets are typically high visibility and public locations. Although active shooter scenarios seem to be popular, the lone wolf cases cited above have made explosives their weapon of choice.

Lone wolf and domestic terrorism are serious threats. This type of attack is difficult to defend against or predict and should give us reason to conduct meaningful threat assessments especially on soft targets in our communities. Some refuse to believe it.

There is a threat far greater than the lone wolf or domestic terrorist: complacency. Complacency is the enemy that blinds us to our only all-hazards defense: resiliency.

In December 2010, I wrote on what I thought were biggest planning problems for the new year; intentional attacks on civilian soft targets, attacks on critical infrastructure, and the threat of increasingly virulent naturally occurring biological events.

Two of the three biggest problems included situations or at-risk locations for a lone wolf and domestic terrorist event.

There is more to soft targets than malls and coffee shops. Our national power grid, for instance, is a brittle system that shows its vulnerability with each stretch of extreme heat or cold. Emergency medical agencies remain understaffed and outside much of the grant funding circle. Fire and police departments continue to flail with ever-shrinking budgets and “what have you done for me lately” attitude from politicians and citizens. The economy of resiliency is making it difficult for local governments and civilians to adequately prepare. With today's level of complacency, even a “fun-size” terrorist event could yield a major impact.

Lone wolf and domestic terrorism is a threat. The threat is growing because of nuts with access to firearms and bomb materials...not because of internet radicalization. The threat also continues to increase because of our complacency and lack of resilience.

The all-hazards solution is to harden our weak areas through assessment and planning to create resilience. While not simple, those two actions would reduce the impact of natural, intentional (terrorist), technological, or accidental events. 

How ready are you for an active shooter?

Co-posted on ProResponder
Ready or not, soft targets are at risk

Active shooter situation may be the most difficult to domestic terrorism situation to deal with. Many of the active shooter situations take place in a work environment and may have no warning. Firearms of all varieties have been noted in active shooter case studies from the United States. According to the Department of Homeland Security
"An Active Shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims..."
These events are unpredictable in nature and timing, but the outcomes and be generically predicted.  If we follow the basic principles of Life Safety, Incident Stabilization, and Property Conservation, we'll be able to keep personnel safety and response priorities in balance.We'l focus on Life Safety and Incident Stabilization in this post.


Life Safety. In active shooter situations life safety means protection of responders, elimination of freelancing, and accountability. While the first step in life safety is pre-incident planning, the root of successful is understanding the response priorities of each responder discipline. In active shooter situations the rapid deployment of law enforcement is paramount to life safety and incident stabilization. The response priorities of law enforcement in active shooter situations is going to be different from those of fire and EMS responders. While fire and EMS responders may be focused on evacuation of live persons or treatment of wounded, law enforcement may have to delay action on the part of other responders to secure the scene and progress toward the actual suspect. The urge to rapidly gain access to wounded persons must be suppressed until law enforcement has deemed the situation safe. To help understand law enforcement perspectives on these situations, I recommend this article from PoliceOne.com

Incident stabilization. First arriving units may encounter persons leaving the scene or may be inundated with wounded. A slow approach with good positioning well away from building egress points will be the best first-in location. EMS should use the delay in patient contact to establish patient collection points and staging areas within the geographical confines of the situation. Keep in mind that wounded persons may have left the scene prior to your arrival and gone into nearby buildings or neighborhoods...you may receive calls to your dispatch center from multiple locations outside the shooter area. Deployment of resources on the perimeter will help speed response to these areas.

The Department of Homeland security has issued a list of good practices for persons in an active shooter situation:
  • Be aware of your environment and any possible dangers
  • Take note of the two nearest exits in any facility you visit
  • If you are in an office, stay there and secure the door
  • If you are in a hallway, get into a room and secure the door
  • As a last resort, attempt to take the active shooter down. When the shooter is at close range and you cannot flee, your chance of survival is much greater if you try to incapacitate him/her.
Also, according to DHS, there are thee main steps people should take;
Evacuate if there is a clear path of egress
Hide Out if evacuation is not possible
Take action against the shooter only as a last resort when your life is directly in danger.

Rule of Outcomes thinking: Active Shooter events

The value of preparing generically

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We've posted several pieces discussing the active shooter situation in Ohio. This weeks Mitigation Journal podcast summarizes many of the issues discussed and introduces Rule of Outcomes thinking as applied to armed gunman/active shooter events.







Click the player below to listen

Soft Targets Attractive to Active Shooter Events

Co-Posted on ProResponder
Active shooters pose active threats

The topic of an active shooter event has tragically made headlines once again. Active shooter situations in a soft target location - a mall, school, hospital/health care environment, or sporting event would be disastrous. We have to acknowledge the fact that these locations are indeed soft targets - they lack the infrastructure to deter an attack and, as current events and case study reminds us, are attractive targets. Further, with all the attention and money spent on chem/bio/rad preparedness, I belive that the active shooter situation has been left behind.

Given this, I've decided to re-post Mitigation Journal podcast #187 (an interview with Net Talon) on active shooter situations, as well as excerpts from prior blog posts on the topic.

Click on the player below to listen to the Net Talon interview!


We're all about situational awareness. Numerous articles and sources have talked about the use of civilians as forward observers...that is, those who are engaged in a situation being part of the solution be providing first-hand data to responders. The best example of this is the cell phone videos that make it to mainstream media; those videos taken by civilians who are actually there and perhaps in harms way. Even more recently we've discussed how many 9-1-1 dispatch centers were now accepting emergency calls via text messaging. Suffice to say, those in the midst of a situation have technology available to get important data out to responders.

I had an opportunity to have Donald Jones, Director of Corporate Development, and Ronald DuBois, Director of Administration and Finance at Net Talon join me on Mitigation Journal Podcast edition 187 for an in-depth look at Net Talon and the Virtual Command technology. What you'll hear on Mitigation Journal Podcast this week is perhaps the most invigorating news on the topic of threat mitigation I've heard in a long time.

Please visit Net Talon on at www.nettalon.com. While you're there, be sure to watch their active shooter demonstration.

7 Surefire Tips for Emergency Plan Failure

Following these simple tips will bring your planning to a bitter end!

Tip #1. Use a template that you found on the internet to write your plan. Just Google for a plan template then use the Find/Replace feature in your word processing application to place your community or organizations name in the appropriate spot. The results will be stunning! You'll have your plan(s) written in no time and they'll be completely dysfunctional. Beware! You might run into a problem when someone else reads the plan or you actually have to put it into action. Don't worry, the following tips are designed to prevent that from happening.

Tip #2. Put the completed plan in a three-ring binder. The next action is to take your generic template from another organization, print it, and place it in a three-ring binder. Slap a label on the binder spine and place it on a shelf! This tip is almost guaranteed to keep anyone from reading your pirated plan! Even better, you'll never have to worry about updates or answering questions on the plan. What a time saver!

Tip #3. Don't have the plan reviewed. Don't even tell anyone about it. The last thing you want is someone reading your plan once its finished, especially someone from outside your agency. To best ensure failure, keep the plan to yourself and quote from it only when absolutely necessary.

Tip #4. Write your plan based on the last crisis you encountered. Remember the last "big one"? Think about what you did during that crisis and build your plan from there. After all, you've always done it that way. Heck, the last "big one" is as bad as it will ever get. Above all, keep in mind that it can't happen here.

Tip #5. Spend fifteen minutes with your Hazard Vulnerability Analysis. Or ignore it completely. You Hazard Vulnerability Analysis will only add work to your plate by making you focus on realistic threats in your community. Why waste the time? If you follow tips 1-4, there is no need to spend time with the HVA.

Tip #6. Write the plan specifically for your organization. Remember, nothing outside of your boundaries needs to be planned for. And any crisis in a neighboring jurisdiction will in no way bother you.

Tip #7. Do not, under any circumstances, test your plan. Save time and build morale with this tip! Skip the realistic training scenario. Table the tabletop exercise. Instead, gather the troops and order pizza! Talk about the good 'ole days and slap each other on the back over what a good job we did at the last drill. Your meaningless template of a plan can remain safe in its binder. No muss, no fuss.

Why you should read history

Learning lessons from historical case study

Click for podcast
I've been a fan of using historical case study in emergency response and domestic preparedness for many years, and until recently, thought I was the only one. Just the other day I read a post on another emergency management blog that noted the significance of the MGM Grand fire in fire code and code enforcement change (Thank you, Todd Jasper -if you haven't visited his blog, click here).
  • What is a case study?
  • What makes case study valuable today?
  • How can we apply case studies to our current environment?
  • Where can we find good case studies?
What is a case study?
According to Dictionary.com, a case study is

"...a study of an individual unit, as a person, family, or social group, usually emphasizing developmental issues and relationships with the environment, especially in order to compare a larger group to the individual unit."
While the above definition is fine for generic use, I'd rather think of a case study (as it pertains to emergency management as the following:
  • an historical record of something the really happened - an after action report
  • a synopsis of the situation
  • a review of positive and negative outcomes from the event
  • an honest review of the lessons learned from the response
A case study should include all of these elements to be useful. It's our job to apply them to today's situations. 

What makes case studies valuable today?
Wouldn't it be nice to learn an important lesson without having to pay the price of error to learn it? Of course it would. And that is the value of relevant case studies...you can learn the lesson without paying the price!

 Reading a case study is just like reading history. It's an event that really happened. People actually responded to the event and had to make decisions. Making a case study valuable to your situation is up to you and you'll have to do a bit of work to find a case study that's good for you. That work includes:
  •  defining what your needs/threats are - is there a specific situation you're preparing for or are you looking to explore you Hazard Vulnerability Assessment?
  • finding a case study or situation that is similar to those needs/threats - finding an event that is similar to what you're preparing for means you'll have to apply the outcomes and lessons to your situation.
  • applying the lessons from that case to your situation - understand where and when the case took place, then compare the outcomes/lesson to today's world and your needs.
How can we apply case studies to our current environment?
Think about what happened in the case. Look at the end result and ask "what would we do?" Would we respond in the same way? Do we have a similar hazard with the same potential? How can we avoid the situation? These are all questions you need to ask yourself while reading a case study.

You'll also need to take into account any changes in operations, personnel, or threats that have been put into play since the case took place. Reading the lessons learned section of an after action report or case study can be the catalyst for training and thinking.

Where can you find emergency response case studies?
United States Fire Administration - Technical Report Series
FEMA - Keyword search Case Study
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (includes NIOSH)- Keyword search Case Study

Just remember; it can’t happen here.

The time is just before noon on April 20, 1999 and the teachers and students of Columbine High School are going about their business as they would any other day. In fact, it is just that; any other day in Littleton, Colorado.

April 20, 1999 was not an ordinary day for two students Columbine High. Tragically this day would become one of the darkest days for domestic terrorism in our Nation. It would also become the day the parents of thirteen children dread…the day their children were killed.

Can anyone remember the act of domestic terrorism at Columbine High School way back in 1999? In case you’ve forgotten let me give you a review.

Two juvenile students of Columbine walk into the school that late morning after killing two students at the entrance. The offenders continue to fire-at-will killing another 11 people and wounding over 160. The semi-automatic guns were not the only weapons of the day. These juvenile home-grown terrorists deployed or possessed over 100 incendiary and explosive devices in an anti-personnel fashion.

Nobody saw it coming. Nobody was ready.

But, that can’t happen here. Dozens of firefighters and paramedics tell me so every month.

Fast forward to January 31, 2006 were we find the first two of three events that underscore our vulnerability to such events. A student of Webster Shcroeder High manages to get a small caliber handgun into the school with a population of 2000 students. He’s caught and peacefully disarmed of the gun and the knife he had hidden in his locker. On that same day at 7th grader at Geneseo Middle School is arrested for compiling a “hit list” from his 536 classmates and attempting to conceal a “fake” bomb.

Editors Note: Don’t let the term “fake” fool you. “Fake” bomb is just another name for one that will not go off. There is a fine line between a bomb that fails to detonate and one that is a “fake”.

February 2, 2006; the 840 student population of Franklin High School in Rochester, NY in lockdown mode, reportedly a student has a loaded gun.

January 31 and February 2, 2006. Two days just like any other.

Here we are nearly seven-years after the Columbine High School attack. Are we better prepared for such an eventuality here?

We’ve broken our collective arms patting each other on the back at various simulations of chemical attacks and aircraft crashes. We’ve written for grant dollars and purchased shinny trucks. So, we must be prepared. Aren’t we?

The sad fact is that we are not prepared. For all the hard work and planning that goes into planning a full-scale functional exercise, many of the lessons that should be taught and learned simply aren’t. We’ve failed to glean all we can from these training sessions because they are WMD or hazardous materials or airplane crash scenarios…not school shootings.

We have to shift our focus to training in the all-hazards mindset. The commonalities among these large-scale events; mass casualty, haz-mat and so on, can be translated to almost any situation.

Can anybody remember April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School? The lessons that should have been learned from that day at Columbine were lost just as the lessons from Y2K, SARS, and any number of natural disasters have been.

Our response community suffers from the worst preparedness shortfall; we still think that the worst thing that we’ve ever encountered in our career is the worst thing that will ever happen…

Just remember; it can’t happen here.

Links:
Franklin H.S. lockdown: http://www.13wham.com/news/local/story.aspx?content_id=52F7165B-88D2-4322-A360-F839E5F5F446

Geneseo student “hit list”: http://www.13wham.com/news/local/story.aspx?content_id=1DF9C978-6764-4009-B733-9CDC331ECC3A

Webster student brings gun: http://www.13wham.com/news/local/story.aspx?content_id=66946445-AD9E-45E7-9D2F-29DB9C59A915

Mas Shootings

Check out this article on Mass Shootings from Government Technology online magazine. Read the You might be interested to listen to my commentary on Mitigation Journal Podcast (see Mitigation Journal #90) as to why hospitals and shopping malls are soft targets and need their own MCI plan.